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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Filtering by Tag: San Francisco

Visit to Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco

Paula Gaston

Few weeks ago we celebrated the Chinese New Year in Chinatown San Francisco. Before the main event of the evening; New Year Parade, we went to eat some Chinese food. Here when you finish eating in a Chinese restaurant, you usually get a little fortune cookie for dessert. We had planned to visit also the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on the same day, so before heading to the parade area, we stopped at this cute little place.

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CHINESE FORTUNE COOKIE BUT NOT FROM CHINA


I had never thought about it, but the fortune cookies are actually an american thing and most likely, you wont run into the in Asia. No one knows for sure where they originate from, but many believe that they came to America with the Japanese immigrants in 19th, or early 20th century. You can actually still find a cookie a little bit similar to this to be sold in Kyoto, Japan. Some say a Japanese man called Magoto Hagiwara was the first person to offer these cookies to people in the Japanese Tea Garden located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Few others have also claimed to be the inventors of the fortune cookie, but no one has been able to prove it true.

Fortune cookies are made from flour, sugar and sesame oil, and flavoured with vanilla. Originally all the cookies were made by hand but the cookie production got a lot faster when a fortune cookie machine was invented in Oakland, California. Inside the cookie there is a little note with a Chinese phrase or an aphorism, and often some lottery numbers as well.

THE TINY GOLDEN GATE FORTUNE COOKIE FACTORY

When we arrived to the Fortune Cookie Factory we almost turned away after seeing the line. We soon noticed though that it moved very fast, and decided to stay. The reason the line moves so fast is because the factory is actually very small, tiny in fact, and it only takes couple minutes to tour it around. You will see how couple staff members make fortune cookies, and you can buy cookies to take home with you. Among the traditional fortune cookie, there are also some other flavours and fortune cookies covered with chocolate, and even some giant cookies. You can even add your own note inside a cookie. Wouldn’t that be a great hint to someone who is planning to propose?

Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

We followed the line inside and bought some chocolate covered fortune cookies to take home with us. Even though the line moved promptly, we had some time to snap couple of photos from inside too. From people who want take photos, they ask either a 50 cent donation or to purchase something from the factory. Fortune Cookie Factory was opened in 1962 and it is owned by Franklin Yee. They produce about 10 000 cookies a day.

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Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
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About a week after visiting the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory I saw in the news that they might have to close their doors soon. San Francisco’s absurd rent prices are really killing the small businesses. It would be such a shame if the fortune cookie factory would be gone since it truly is a piece of Chinatown’s history and a great little place to visit!

 



We Celebrated Chinese New Year in San Francisco Chinatown

Paula Gaston

Well here we go, it is the start of the Year of the Pig! Or to be even more specific, the Year of the brown pig. For some years now I have tried to make it down to the Chinatown in San Francisco, to see the New Year Parade but there has always been some excuses; rain, sick kids and or something. But finally this year I was able to experience this amazing night. Even though it was a chilly evening, we had a lot of fun listening the fire crackers and watching the parade.

If you want to see how it was, just check out my Instastories on my Instagram account.

THE HISTORIC CHINATOWN OF SAN FRANCISCO

Chinatown in San Francisco was established in 1848, and it is one of the top sights to see among the tourists visiting the city. Almost 35 000 people live over there and it is the most densely populated area after Manhattan. During the history, the Chinatown has seen many thing from earthquakes to confrontations of some Asian gangs. Many Chinese living close by come over to Chinatown for shopping and to different events, the tourist come to see the sights and to eat. While walking on the small alleys of Chinatown you can easily forget that you are in the USA and you are likely to hear more Chinese than English. It is definitely a worth of visit when in San Francisco.

 

THE AMAZING NEW YEARS PARADE

Every year couple weeks after the new year starts they organise a big parade in the Chinatown. At the dawn people gather up along the roads to wait and you can start hearing the fire crackers. If you want to get a front row spot, you have arrive at least an hour before the parade starts. And it goes on for several hours. It end by the tent of the judges who then choose the best performer or float.

The parade is a mixture of Chinese traditions and American parade culture. The whole thing started with a police entourage which then continued with other participants. Since it is a year of the pig, all the decorations of course where made to showcase that. Chinese traditions were the many lion and dragon dancers, martial art performers and other dancers. I think the America was represented by the marching bands and the floats. I especially remember the big dragons and the decorated cable cars which this time were on tires.

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The first parade was held already on 1858, but there are many other New Year events in Chinatown too. They have a New Year Run, Miss Chinatown U.S.A. pageant and even a flower festival. Miss Chinatown was part of the parade with her runner ups. The parade was actually so long that we decided to go get some hot tea and a bite to eat, and then head to home before it ended. We managed to see the end of the parade while walking toward to train station. Even it being so cold, we still had to take some photos of the rest of the performers.

The Grand Finale of the parade was the Golden Dragon. The dragon is made in China, and it is over 268 feet long. It need 100 men to carry it through the parade. And it truly was really magical when it danced very close of us almost touching our jackets.

When we left home we decided that this was a good “practise year” for us. Next time we will come over with a bigger crew, will bring some lawn chairs, coffee and warmer clothes. Now we also know which spots are the best to watch the parade. The best ones are right after the bleacher seats where the performers will stop to do their routine. Or you can always get the seat with $35 and be guaranteed with a good view. Otherwise the parade is free of charge.

This was truly a memorable experience! Happy New Year everyone!

 

Champange brunch in San Francisco's iconic Cliff House Restaurant

Paula Gaston

For several years now, we have celebrated Valentine’s Day before or after the actual day. We got tired of the sold out and crowded restaurants with over priced menus. This year Valentine’s Day was in the middle of the week and we decided to go out for brunch on the following Sunday. For a few years already, I have wanted to eat at the Cliff House restaurant in San Francisco which is famous for its long history in the city. Finally we made it to their Sunday brunch and it was totally worth it!

THE LONG AND COLORFUL HISTORY OF THE CLIFF HOUSE RESTAURANT

Cliff House is located in an amazing spot right by the ocean. It was first opened in 1858, and it has been either rebuilt or renovated for five times. The second Cliff House building was built on the same spot in 1863, and it quickly become a very successful restaurant. The building was later damaged when a schooner ran aground next to it, and the dynamite it was carrying exploded. The building was repaired, but it eventually burned down in a fire on Christmas 1894. The fire also destroyed the restaurants’s records of its famous customers including U.S. presidents and other notables.

Adolph Sutro, who had earlier bought the Cliff House, built the third restaurant after the fire. The new building was a beautiful, Victorian mansion which also got the nickname The Gingerbread Palace. The same year he also started to build the Sutro Baths next to the Cliff House, which would become the biggest inside swimming pool complex in the world at the time. The amazing Cliff House building survived the big San Francisco earthquake in 1906 just to burn down the following year. So started the time of the fourth Cliff House. Also the Sutro Baths were destroyed by a fire later in 1966 but you can still see the ruins of the pools if you visit the area.

After the fire the daughter of Adolph Sutro, Emme Merritt took over, and built a new Cliff House restaurant. After that the building has had several major renovations until it was finally taken over by the National Park System, who updated it with a neoclassical style. Today there is also a souvenir shop in the same building as the restaurant.

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BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS AND THE DELICIOUS BUFFET TABLE

The Cliff House has two separate restaurants; the Bistro Restaurant and a little bit more formal Sutro’s. Sunday brunch is served in the Terrace Room where they have an awesome view of the ocean. There are three servings and this time we were on the last one, which was at 2 pm. The restaurant seemed very full and I think we might have gotten one of the last tables when we made our reservation.

The brunch comes with the traditional bottomless champagne mimosas, non alcoholic beverages and coffee. And I have to say, our glasses were always full and in many other ways the service was seamless as well. Even our 6 year old was excited, since she got to drink some non alcoholic cider out of a champagne glass, and not from a plastic cup that they usually give for kids in the restaurants here.

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In the buffet they had some traditional breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, Eggs Benedict (my favourite), sausages, bacon and potatoes. They also had plenty of sea food prepared in different ways like fish, shrimp and clams. For us this was a great fit, since we love that kind of thing. One of my favorites at the buffet was the Miso Marinated Salmon Medallions. We also tried some paella, different kinds of cheeses and sandwich meats, and many salads. There were actually so many sorts that I don’t think I even tried all of them. For example, from the giant fruit platter I was only able to try a couple of things, since I was already so full. My ultimate favorite from the desserts was the Butterscotch Eggs made in real egg shells. Nom nom!

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The brunch at the Cliff House costs $65, and the kids were half price. We were happy to see that they didn’t charge anything for our 1 1/2 year old who nibbled some omelette and a tiny piece of salmon. We were not sure if they would charge something for her or not. During the brunch they had some harp music which somehow fit into this space perfectly.

If you have time, you can do a little stroll in Land’s End after the brunch where the Sutro Bath ruins are. In the beginning of the trail at the beach there is a little cave, and if you continue on the trail you will see a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

 

10 Pictures that Will Inspire You to Visit San Francisco

Paula Gaston

San Francisco is much more than just city life. Close by, in San Francisco Bay Area, there are many beautiful beaches, parks and trails. The giant red woods are amazing and the sun set over the ocean wont leave anyone cold. If you don't believe me, juts see for yourself!

1. GOLDEN GATE

The Golden Gate Bridge is the mark of San Francisco and its most famous sight. If you want to see it from somewhere else than from the city, you hike up the hills on the opposite side of the bridge and enjoy some fresh ocean breeze. 

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2. CHINA TOWN

The world's biggest China Town outside of China is colorful and full of life. It's a great place to just walk around, eat or stop in the many little stores they have. 

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3. JAPANESE TEA GARDEN - GOLDEN GATE PARK

In the middle of the city there is a huge park called Golden Gate Park. It hides inside so many beautiful places but one of the most beautiful one is the Japanese Tea Garden. It is definitely at its best during spring with the cherry blossoms. 

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4. SUTRO BATHS

In the 18th century the Sutro Baths used to be sort of a spa and its remains are right next to the famous Cliff House restaurant. It used to be the world's biggest indoor swimming facility but none of the buildings exist anymore. The pools now get filled by the ocean's crashing waves and there are great hiking trails in the area. Sutro Baths is part of the Golden Gate Recreational Area so it is protected and part of the national parks.  

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5. FILOLI GARDENS

One of the most beautiful places in the San Francisco Bay Area is for sure the Filoli Gardens. It is great all year round but especially gorgeous during the spring time. If you get bored of the flowers, you can also visit the mansion which was used in the Dynasty TV show. 

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6. POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE

A little bit north from San Francisco lies the Point Reyes National Seashore. They have excellent beaches, forests and great hiking trails. One of the most visited places at Point Reyes is its old lighthouse. 

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7. POINT REYES SHIP WRECK

This well known ship wreck at the Point Reyes National Seashore is hidden behind a restaurant building, so most times you will be the only one visiting it. Unfortunately, some time ago someone set it on fire, so I am not sure how much is left of it anymore. 

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8. HORSE BACK RIDING IN THIS SCENERY

In San Francisco and close by it, you can find many beaches where you can go horse back riding. This picture is from Drake's Beach. 

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9. THE GIANT RED WOODS OF MUIR WOODS

Muir Woods National Monument is north of the city of San Francisco. The rare coastal red woods grow on this protected area. After a twisty mountain road you will forget city life by walking into a whole different world. The oldest tree in Muir Woods is over 1200 years old.

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10. THE SUN SETS OF CALIFORNIA

Nothing is better than sun sets in California. And you will have plenty of places in San Francisco to see them. The city is surrounded by water, which makes it a special place to watch the sun go down on summer evenings. 

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Everyone should experience San Francisco once in a lifetime!

Vacation in a City - My Top 10 Cities in the World

Paula Gaston

The Internet has made booking trips so much easier that most people book their trips by themselves rather than use tour operators. More and more trips are also made to metropolitan cities. Here are my favorite cities to visit. It was impossible to put them into any specific order since they all are so different from each other. 

1. SAN FRANCISCO

Well, it is almost a must for me to start with the city that I love, and which is very close to my home. San Francisco is colorful, trendy and a little bit crazy too, and it offers something for everyone. When visiting, you definitely need more than just a one day, since there is so much to see and do in the city, and not to mention all the areas surrounding it. You must of course see the Golden Gate Bridge, ride the Cable Cars and visit Pier 39. And don't forget the world's biggest Chinatown outside of China. This is a city where you can walk in a business district one minute and hike on the beach the next. Or you can do a cruise to famous Alcatraz Island. There is nothing that people here haven't seen, so no matter what you look like, they wont be staring at you. No wonder they call it the most European city of the United States. 

Pros: Open minded and colorful city which you will never get bored with!
Cons: Expensive to stay in. Often chilly winds blow from the ocean. Increasing problem with drugs and homeless people can be seen almost everywhere today.

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2. TOKYO

Tokyo is definitely different than any place you have ever been to. Even different sections of the city can be totally different from each others. Tokyo is very hectic and crazy, but they also have beautiful parks where you can go enjoy the silence. The first days were quite confusing to us since the train and metro network is huge and most signs are in Japanese. But at the end we managed to learn how to get around, and even our 4 year old fell in love with Japan. There is tons to do with kids, and for young at heart adults. And we have never felt this safe on any of our travels before. 

Pros: The safest and most different city we have ever been to.
Cons: Hotels are quite expensive and people don’t often speak English.

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3. PARIS

Paris is Paris, what can you say? It has its own atmosphere and you really feel like you are in Europe. Paris feels compact since you can easily see all the sights in one day by using the metro. Beautiful buildings and history is everywhere, not to mention the River Seine. Paris is great for those who love good food and shopping. 

Pros: A mecca for those who love good food. A lot to see and lots of history.
Cons: Hotels are expensive. In many place they don’t speak English. To break the ice it would be good to know a couple words of French. 

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4. LONDON

At the same time modern and old fashioned London needs no introduction. So much to see there, and if you don’t want to tour in a double decker bus around the city, you can always take the Underground (metro). London was my hometown for one summer and there was never a boring day while I was there. You can see and feel the long history of the country all around London. 

Pros: Amazing amount of culture and lots of history. Everyone speaks English. 
Cons: The weather can change quickly so don't go anywhere without an umbrella. 

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5. ST. PETERSBURG

We went to St. Petersburg and I felt like I didn't see quite everything yet. I would like to go back and explore more. There are so many beautiful buildings and museums, good food and many things to see in this city. It would be even better if there was a local guide to show you around. Even though everything on our trip went well, occasionally we felt like people didn't like us. This might not be the best destination with kids since most sights are museums and churches. 

Pros: So much culture, museums and architecture.
Cons: Safety can be a concern. Requires a visa if you want to stay more than 72 hours. 

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6. TALLINN

Tallinn has fast become a very trendy city. People don't go there anymore just because of the cheap shopping, they go there to eat in fine dining restaurants and see the night life. And of course, there is a lot to see in Tallinn, like the best preserved medieval walled old town.

Pros: Still relatively cheap. Lot of historical places.  
Cons: Far away from rest of the Europe. 

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7. STOCKHOLM

Visit the rustic Old Town in Stockholm. I will never get bored of the awesome cafes there. Stockholm is great for shopping, but there is also a lot to do there. It is great with kids and you don't have to leave far from the city center to find cool stuff.  

Pros: A lot to do for both single people and families with kids
Cons:
Staying downtown is quite expensive. Cold and dark during the winter months. 

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8. CHICAGO

Chicago has always been one of my favorites in the U.S. From the downtown with high-rises you can easily get to the beach of Lake Michigan. Also the Chicago River that runs through the city makes it a very unique place. Chicago has some kind of old movie feel, and I even got a closer look at that while I stayed in the Tokyo Hotel which used to be popular among gangsters. During the winter Chicago is cold and it might snow, so summer months are better for vacationing. In recent years the crime rate has increased in Chicago so make sure to stay in safer areas. 

Pros: There is both a lake and a river right by downtown. 
Cons: During the winter it can be cold. Chicago is not called the Windy City for nothing; the flights are often delayed or cancelled due to weather and storms. Some parts of the city are not safe. 

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9. DUBAI

There are many kinds of opinions of Dubai, but I added it to my list since they have most everything there that you could want. They have sun, beach, food and some culture. The local culture is mixed up with this new and fast built city where everything must be bigger and better. It might not feel real but at least it makes Dubai different. Beaches are close by to the city.

Pros: Both beach and city life combined with arab culture. For sure a different sort of place unlike any other.
Cons: Dubai has been questioned for its respect of human rights and for destroying the ocean by building artificial islands. 

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10. REYKJAVIK

Yes I know, it is not exactly a metropolitan city, but at least it is a capital! I really liked Reykjavik. It is known for it's colorful nightlife and many cafes. It is small enough that you can just walk or bike from one place to another while admiring beautiful wall murals. And you can't feel any more safe than you will here!

Pros: Small but full of life. Very safe. People speak English almost everywhere.
Con: The service culture in Iceland is often very stiff and serious. 

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What are your favorite cities?